Alumni Awards Dinner 2021
Each year, the Stanford Medicine Alumni Association presents awards to distinguished alumni for exceptional service to Stanford Medicine and outstanding lifetime contributions to medicine and the biomedical sciences. The Alumni Awards Dinner is an evening awards ceremony celebrating the achievements and in recognition of our outstanding alumni award recipients.
Photos coming soon
Alumni Awards & 2021 Recipients
J.E. Wallace Sterling Lifetime Achievement Award in J.E. Wallace Sterling Lifetime Achievement Award in Medicine
In the summer of 1953, J. E. Wallace Sterling, president of Stanford University, persuaded the university trustees to move the School of Medicine from San Francisco to the main Palo Alto campus. The school was moved in 1959, and was transformational in its bringing together, in one location, the resources and pioneering breakthroughs of the School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital, and Stanford University. Stanford Medicine grew steadily in national stature until it attained and now holds a respected place in the front ranks of medical education, scientific achievement, and clinical medicine.
Many years following the move to campus, retired faculty surgeon Gunther W. Nagel, MD ’21, proposed that the school establish an award in Sterling’s name to recognize a distinguished graduate. In 1983, the Stanford Medicine Alumni Association Board of Governors conferred the first J. E. Wallace Sterling Lifetime Achievement Award, now presented annually to a Stanford University School of Medicine MD graduate in recognition of exceptional lifetime achievement in medicine.
Karl Deisseroth, PhD ’98, MD ’00
Psychiatrist and neuroscientist Karl Deisseroth is the D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Dr. Deisseroth is best known for more than 15 years of work in the field of optogenetics and his development of CLARITY—contributing significantly with transformative discoveries that have dramatically improved the study of brain function.
Dr. Deisseroth received his BA in biochemical sciences, summa cum laude, from Harvard College in 1992. Attracted to Stanford by the work of eminent neuroanatomist Richard Tsien, he earned his PhD in neuroscience in 1998 and his MD in 2000. He became a principal investigator and clinical educator at the School of Medicine, started his own lab in 2004, and became a full professor in 2012.
Dr Deisseroth is a pioneer in the field of optogenetics, which combines tools from optics—the study of light—and genetic engineering to control the activity of the brain. With mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and social dysfunction a primary research focus, Dr. Deisseroth’s laboratory uses optogenetics to precisely manipulate neurons and visualize neural circuits in exquisite detail. This innovative tool has become a standard in neuroscience, with researchers worldwide using it to study learning, memory, perceptions, motivation, mood, and appetite as well as to home in on the neural-circuit malfunctions responsible for a wide range of emotional problems.
In 2013, Dr. Deisseroth developed CLARITY to improve the observation of brain structure. Using a hydrogel, CLARITY removes opacifying fats to create an optically transparent tissue sample that retains original structure and molecular information. Dr. Deisseroth also developed fiber photometry imaging, which complements CLARITY, to detect traffic along fine connections deep within the intact mammalian brain.
Throughout his career, Dr. Deisseroth has received many honors and awards, some of which are highlighted here. In 2014, he was awarded the Keio Medical Science Prize for optogenetics, and in 2015, he was awarded the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences for optogenetics and CLARITY. He was given Germany’s Else Kröner Fresenius Prize in 2017 for optogenetics and hydrogel-tissue chemistry and for developing circuit-level insight into depression. In 2018, he became the youngest recipient of the Kyoto Prize, a prestigious private award, for optogenetics and the development of causal systems neuroscience. Just recently, Dr. Deisseroth was among those awarded the 2021 Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, one of the most prestigious recognitions in medicine.
He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Engineering—one of only 22 people to be elected to all three organizations.
D. Craig Miller, MD ’72
D. Craig Miller, MD, the Thelma and Henry Doelger Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery at Stanford, is a groundbreaking cardiovascular surgeon and an internationally recognized leader in thoracic aortic surgery as well as mitral and aortic valve diseases.
Dr. Miller is a fifth-generation Californian being born in San Francisco and raised in Shasta County. He spent three years at Dartmouth College as a Math and Chemistry major, followed by completing his BA at Stanford and receiving his MD here in 1972. Inspired by Dr. Norman Shumway, who performed the first successful heart transplant in the United States, he pursued cardiovascular surgery. After residency training that included general, peripheral vascular, and cardiothoracic surgery, he joined the Stanford University School of Medicine faculty in 1978. In September 2021, he transitioned to Emeritus status.
Dr. Miller spearheaded the adoption of valve-sparing aortic root replacement since 1993— adding refinements to make this technique for preserving the aortic valve in young patients with the Marfan syndrome and other aortic diseases reproducible, safe, and durable. Starting in 1982 he helped establish valve repair as the preferred treatment for mitral valve regurgitation. Working with Michael Dake and Scott Mitchell the innovative first thoracic aortic stent-graft graft (now termed TEVAR) in the world was carried out here in July 1992. Dr. Miller has also encouraged the creation of multidisciplinary treatment teams, having starting the Stanford Marfan and Related Connective Tissue Disorders Clinic in 1989 and more recently bringing the initial randomized controlled clinical trials of transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) and the MitraClip technology to Stanford.
At his core, Dr. Miller is a surgeon-scientist whose clinical and research work have focused on expanding the fundamental pathophysiological understanding of diseases in order to “make things better.” The NIH funded his research laboratory for nearly 30 years working on left ventricular mechanics and valve disease. He has published over 650 scientific papers. His students, surgical residents, and research fellows attest to his demanding and focused personal and professional influence—pointing to his gentle admonition: “Close your eyes, count to 10, and think” and to his iconic Stetson and cowboy boots—a legacy from his youth spent working on family ranches in northern California. His primary thrust has always been teaching, conveying to the trainees how the most important element of good patient care is based on actual caring for the individual patient. His “Miller rounds” the evening before operations where the surgical team goes over all the clinical information and imaging and discusses the various treatment options are legendary, albeit exhausting. He prides himself that his legacy will be measured by how well the trainees do in their careers, and finds this the most rewarding part of his job.
Dr. Miller was associate editor of The Journal for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery for 12 years and on the editorial board of eight other journals. He has served as president of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) in 2008 and as chairman of the AHA Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery Council. He is a recipient of the American Heart Association’s Distinguished Scientist Award and its prestigious Eugene Braunwald Mentorship Award. Among numerous other honors, he received the Marfan Foundation’s Antoine Marfan Award in 2001 and the Heller Family Scientific Research Award in 2017; he also received the AATS Scientific Achievement Award in 2019, and he was elected as the Stanford University Medical School’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1997.
Arthur Kornberg and Paul Berg Lifetime Achievement Award in Biomedical Sciences
In 2010, the Stanford University Medical Center Alumni Association Board of Governors established an award to recognize the lifetime achievements of Stanford University School of Medicine alumni in the biomedical sciences. This award carries the names of Arthur Kornberg, MD, and Paul Berg, PhD, in recognition of their pioneering contributions to medicine and their service to Stanford.
In 1959, Dr. Kornberg came to Stanford as chair of the newly established Department of Biochemistry. In the same year, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine along with Severo Ochoa for their work in elucidating how DNA is built. These basic studies paved the road to recombinant DNA and genetic engineering, now important elements in the treatment of cancer and viral infections.
Dr. Berg also came to Stanford in 1959. His work with recombinant DNA, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1980, helped launch the biotechnology industry.Drs. Berg and Kornberg brought to Stanford a passion for discovery, groundbreaking research, and a strong spirit of excitement and cooperation. They helped forge an environment that has produced generations of highly successful students and postdoctoral fellows, and in so doing, shaped the future of the School of Medicine. This lifetime achievement award honors their legacy.
Michael J. Chamberlin, PhD ’63
Chicago native Michael Chamberlin is professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests in the years leading up to his retirement focused on gene expression in prokaryotes and eukaryotes and the mechanism by which RNA polymerases initiate and terminate transcription.
As an undergraduate at Harvard, where he received his BA in 1959, Dr. Chamberlin was mentored by eminent biochemist, researcher, and teacher John Edsall. He earned his PhD in biochemistry at Stanford in 1963—where in the course of his studies, he received critical guidance from his thesis advisor Paul Berg and Department of Biochemistry Chair Arthur Kornberg.
On graduation from Stanford, Dr. Chamberlin stayed in California, becoming an assistant professor of virology at Berkeley and later an associate professor of molecular biology, an associate professor of biochemistry and, in 1973, a professor of biochemistry.
During the active years of his career, he published prolifically, following in the footsteps of his mentor John Edsall. In 1974 alone, he published a series of three papers in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC)—that resulted in a model for RNA chain initiation by RNA polymerase. Even before publishing these papers, he had already determined that the steps leading to the initiation of transcription involve the binding of RNA polymerase to DNA, the location of a specific promoter, and RNA chain initiation.
Dr. Chamberlin is a scientist and educator whose laboratory environment contributed to the success of 37 doctoral students. He has trained leading molecular biologists at work in academic settings that include Cornell, Harvard, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of California, San Diego. He remains committed to encouraging the progress of former students.
During his extensive career, he has received numerous honors. In 1986, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He is also a member of the American Association of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Microbiology. In addition, Sigma Xi recognized him for his lifelong contribution to scientific research and training with the Monie A. Ferst Award.
Stephen P. Goff, PhD ’78
Stephen P. Goff is the Higgins Professor of Biochemistry at Columbia University Medical Center with appointments in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and Microbiology and Immunology. He is also a member of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center .
He earned his BA in biophysics at Amherst College in 1973 and did his graduate work in the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University School of Medicine under the guidance of Paul Berg, receiving a PhD in biochemistry in 1978 for his work on the use of SV40 as a viral vector for the expression of foreign DNAs in mammalian cells. He completed his postdoctoral work on the replication of the murine leukemia viruses with Dr. David Baltimore at MIT as a Jane Coffin Childs fellow and joined the Columbia faculty in 1981.
Dr. Goff’s current work is centered on the study of the Moloney murine leukemia virus, an oncogenic retrovirus, and human immunodeficiency virus type 1, the cause of AIDS. In particular, he focuses on cellular genes that play major roles in the life cycle of these viruses. Studies of the events occurring soon after retrovirus infection reveal that unintegrated retroviral DNAs are loaded with histones and silenced by histone modifications and that this silencing stops after the DNAS are integrated into the host genome. This research has been invaluable to new developments in immunology and virus research.
Dr. Goff has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Microbiology. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Amherst College in 1997 and was the inaugural recipient of the Retrovirus Prize in 2005. He has authored or coauthored more than 300 publications on viral replication and oncogenesis.
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